How to Become an Identity Theft Victim in Just 24 Hours
Find out how your daily activities could make your financial information vulnerable to hackers
With so many identity thieves lurking online and in person, your daily habits could be putting your identity in jeopardy. In fact, if you're not careful, you can become an identity theft victim before lunch!
Here's a look at the routine activities that could make your identity susceptible to hackers and scammers:
When you get the mail
Tossing unopened credit card offers in the trash is like an invitation to fraudsters to come steal your information. Dumpster diving is a real thing, and putting your pre-filled credit applications and other mail with personal info in the regular trash when you do your daily mail sorting makes it easy for thieves. The solution here is simple: shred, baby, shred!
Bonus tip: If you're going out of town, be sure to put a hold on your mail service so that it doesn't remain sitting in your mailbox for days for anyone to grab.
When you're out and about
Free Wi-Fi is awesome, but not for online banking on the go. Anyone with a "hacking 101" degree will be able to break into your smartphone activity and take what they want (account information, passwords, etc.) if it isn't secure. Refrain from doing anything important when using public Wi-Fi.
Bonus tip: Downloading a VPN (virtual personal network) app will encrypt your online activity, which makes it more likely that a hacker will move on to easier prey.
When you're swiping
Whether you're getting gas, out for a meal, or shopping at your favorite retailer, be careful when swiping your plastic. Sophisticated skimming devices placed over card payment terminals have been helping fraudsters steal personal information off of magnetic card stripes for years. If you have a chip card, you're a bit safer, but if your gut tells you a terminal seems shady (like if it's loose or discolored), walk away.
Bonus tips: Always cover the PIN pad. You might feel weird doing it, but you absolutely should. Without your PIN code, even if a thief gets your other information, he or she likely can't break into your account.
When you're online shopping
If you're on big-name sites, you're probably safe, but it's always smart to look for the 'https' in the address bar of your browser, which indicates you're on a secure site. You also want to make sure that when clicking a link from an email, that it sends you to a real website, not a copycat one. Otherwise, you could fall for a classic "phishing" scam.
Bonus tip: Think twice before using your debit card for online purchases. Credit card issuers will not hold you responsible for even a penny if fraud takes place, while hacked debit accounts could tie up your actual money for a few days.
When you're home
Every household has mobile devices, tablets, and laptops these days, and if you're not password-protecting them, anyone who has access to your home (repair people, cleaning service, your teen's friends) can hack in. This is good to remember if you're leaving gadgets behind in hotel rooms also.
Bonus tip: Similar advice goes for low-tech items, too! Leaving important papers and bills lying around on the counter makes it easy for someone to snap a picture of your account numbers.
When it comes to your personal identity, try to think like a thief. Being mindful of what you do on a daily basis can help protect your identity.
Want to really deter ID thieves? ID theft protection can safeguard your information; do it now!